Peak football

How should we think about football?

A 1953 comedy monologue by Andy Griffith (1926-2012), “What it Was, Was Football,” sold 850,000 vinyl records and led to a 1954 appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show. I played it on our crank-up Victrola enough to memorize it.

Football helped shape my consciousness. Lou “The Toe” Groza (1924-2000) was a mythic figure for me because he kicked a 52-yard field goal. I listened to the Iron Bowl on radio in 1958. On Sundays, I watched the Bear Bryant Show at 4 pm and the Auburn Football Review with Shug Jordan at 5 pm. Football influenced my decision to enroll at the University of Alabama instead of Berea College. Berea isn’t in the SEC.

Here’s how I think about football today:

  • My love for the game is tempered by my growing awareness of injury risk that began when Bo Jackson’s career ended in 1990. Have athletes’ size and speed made the sport too dangerous for high mass, high speed collisions? Are recent safety-focused rule changes coming fast enough?
  • Can teams play hard without viewing an inflicted injury as a trophy? Sometimes players ejected for targeting are cheered by fans and given high fives by teammates. Injuries are not just about size and speed. They are about intent. This may not change until a player is killed on national TV, if then.
  • The sadness I felt for Bo Jackson returned as two Bulldogs chased Tua Tagovailoa. For me, he represents (1) the amazing excellence of this era by raising the performance bar and (2) the dangers of this era by enduring injuries that effectively knocked him out of two Heisman Trophy quests.
Bo and Tua

2 thoughts on “Peak football”

  1. Thank you, Kathy. At this point in my life, I have the freedom to take a step back and try to look at the universe and my psyche with more objectivity. My sadness is toward injured athletes and their families. As a fan, I empathize with them but I haven’t made the sacrifice and won’t endure an altered future. I can literally turn the channel. On Saturday, I watched the “other Alabama QB” lead Oklahoma to a dramatic come-from-behind win. So, my personal life goes on.

    However, I’m not willing to simply say, “That’s football,” and go eat dinner. I’m not willing to silently accept our culture’s numbness to growing violence without at least naming it for my children to think about. On most of these issues, they’re much more aware and engaged. What I can provide is some historical context. I hadn’t listened to Griffith’s monologue in a long time until I prepared this post. I was struck by the “truth” of the violence in the parody after over 65 years.

    My personal sadness is really a corporate sadness about what all this says about us as a culture. 🙂


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